by Kristina Murkett
Wednesday, 15
June 2022
Debate
10:00

The medieval trial of Amber Heard

Rumour and gossip have returned to the courtroom
by Kristina Murkett
A fraudulent fantasist or a victim of an ‘orgy of misogyny’? Credit: Getty

In his essay ‘Was the jury ever self-informing?’ Daniel Klerman explores how medieval juries were allowed to base their verdicts not on court evidence, but on information they learned through tight-knit communities and interested parties. He concludes that what distinguishes the medieval and modern jury is that medieval jurors came to court with extensive knowledge about the case and the defendant; rumour and gossip meant that jurors were ‘already informed’ before they walked through the door.

By Klerman’s standards, the Amber Heard and Johnny Depp trial, and the insatiable, salacious social media frenzy that came with it, was positively medieval. Amber Heard, in her first interview since the verdict, said that the “hate and vitriol” meant that no one could argue that there had been “fair representation”, and her lawyers have already argued that there was “no way” the jurors “could not have been influenced” by the gruesome media circus that spawned such malicious memes, misinformation, and even merchandise.

It’s hard to disagree. The jurors were not sequestered, and there was a ten day break in the middle of proceedings. It would have been almost impossible for jurors to not have been exposed to the court of public opinion, whether through a deliberate search, an accidental notification, or a discussion with others. The trial was an inescapable spectator sport; the #justiceforjohnnydepp racked up almost 21 billion views. It is ironic that a defamation case sparked so much flagrant defamation; around 11% of the commentary was driven by fake accounts, one of which was run by a fake ‘juror’ who accumulated millions of views.

Even if jurors did somehow manage to avoid the seemingly omniscient social media commentary, the support for Depp was visible everyday outside the courtroom, as they walked past screaming hordes of so-called ‘Deppford Wives’ chanting ‘Amber Turd’.

Much has already been written about the social implications of the trial: whether this is the end of #MeToo and the beginning of #MenToo; what this means for victims of domestic violence; how we need to protect witnesses from spiteful trolling which can even end their careers. Yet there is one fundamental unanswered question: in the age of social media, where ‘trials by TikTok’ mean that anyone can be the arbiter of right and wrong, can there be such a thing as an unbiased jury?

Over the last decade there has been a sharp increase in the number of mistrials due to juror’s internet use; everything from tweeting during trials to researching defendant’s backgrounds to discovering a ‘virtual lynching mob’ in Facebook comments. According to research by UCL, almost 25% of jurors are confused about what they are allowed to do on the internet during jury service, while another study found that 12% of jurors looked at information about their trials online, while for high-profile cases, one in four did.

Clearer rules and regulations as well as heavier fines for inappropriate internet use can only go so far. In a world where everything is content, where information is a click or a pop-up or a swipe away, the lure of social media is simply too tempting. That is why, regardless of what you think of Amber Heard — whether you think she is a fraudulent fantasist or a victim of this ‘orgy of misogyny’ — this case should concern everyone.

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0 0
1 month ago

Like so many in mainstream media who didn’t watch the trial apparently, you extrapolate so significantly that you lose track of the ground the story stems from. This was about 2 people, one of whom is deeply flawed, addictive, and narcissistic, while the other is a cluster B personality type that lies so egregiously, often contradicting herself within moments, that even an 8 year old could recognize it. Instead of acknowledging this and letting sleeping dogs lie, media has cashed in on her illness by furthering her argument and fueling her need for attention that is indicative of said illness. This creates a real victim of Heard, but primarily by the media itself. She continues with her delusions out of mental disease and instead of taking the opportunity of focusing on the significant impact of this growing crisis in a way that could reduce suffering through greater widespread knowledge shared, we get the grotesque politicization and weaponization of everything with this added giant leap to speculation for blaming a jury despite zero evidence. Btw, it’s not difficult to know exactly how and why the jury found as they did regardless their exposure to public opinion, as the recordings played in court, the witnesses, and forensic evidence is legion, often recorded by the abuser herself, including her multiple admissions on tape. Not to mention her verifiable and laughable lies, otherwise known as perjury, on the stand. If a man had done to a woman what AH did to JD, I predict most articles would be shouting from rooftops about the significance of toxic masculinity. But instead there is a diet of this disturbing and distracting nonsense with Heard being sadly used and codependently encouraged by MSM. In short, too many men are physically abused by sick partners, as well as too many women. That wasn’t so hard to say..

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 month ago
Reply to  0 0

Feminists have never liked the fact that violence and abuse isnt gendered which is why they have been actively denying it and bullying anyone who stands up and says it (See Erin Prizzy being bullied out of Britain). For a very long time feminist run refuge charities got 100% funding, however the more men who come forward the more it impacts their share and they don’t like it.
I did notice that all the pro AH coverage was along the lines of “If she loses this will negatively impact female victims”, which comes across, less ‘Oh poor Amber’ and more ‘Oh no! our victimhood status!’

Last edited 1 month ago by Lindsay Snoman
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0 0
1 month ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

It is inconvenient, isnt it? And more than that, I wonder how the group-think that is liberal-left in the US today, to which i was born and raised and thankfully have recovered from, maintains its remarkable separation from the rest of society while believing whole heartedly they are the arbiters of all things true, good and holy? Therefore, regardless of any facts in this case, the MSM willfully, ignorantly celebrates their own alliance with the mentally ill that fit a part, instead of real victims? A great piece by Matt Taibbi today about an organization, WoLF, that is helping women that are being raped in prison by trans menthe are forced to room with. The organization, has been canceled by Paypal, Social media, politicians, and individuals even writing about them are also being cancelled. Even the ACLU is lining up against them, while 2 minutes ago they were touting their support for LGB individuals who are nearly half the women prison population and are often victimized! Thus their support is creating victims out of gay and bi women in favor of men who are no longer on hormones so they can get erections, and victimize their fellow prisoners.. Its mind bending the incompetence of many who cower in the face of the mob, many of whom hold power over others, and against any common sense..

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
1 month ago

I think I take issue with the title of the piece “ The medieval trial of Amber Heard”, it conjures up an image of Amber Heard purely as a ‘victim, I think it would be simplistic to suggest that Johnny Depp wasn’t also on trial, especially if we accept the premise of the article.
If anything, both participants, particularly AH (because she started it), should have listened to the old adage “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”. That seems even more apt, if you potentially have a large crowd standing outside, looking in.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
1 month ago

I expect the tape of Heard saying that she didn’t punch Jonny, she just hits him, the fact that she cut the end of his finger off and literally crapped in his bed was more persuasive about who was the abusive one in that relationship.

Also, rather unusually, his ex-wives and long-term partners were only too pleased to come forward and speak to his personally gentle nature, whereas Amber’s previous long-term girlfriend had made complaints of physical abuse.

I’d be surprised if social media made much difference.

J Morgan
J Morgan
1 month ago

The only way this post makes sense is if:
1) you thought Heard was a basically credible witness AND
2) you have reason to believe the jury misbehaved and were glued to TikTok

Or 3) you didn’t spend weeks watching testimony as the jury and millions of others who didn’t believe Heard did.

I’m going with option 3.

Peter Shaw
Peter Shaw
1 month ago

I keep trying to find this author’s article criticising the media condemnation while Harvey Weinstein was on trial for his freedom. It must be somewhere surely ?

adam cook
adam cook
1 month ago

All the people that didn’t watch the trial couldn’t see her blatant and obvious lies and contradictions. At last count there were 27. And they were obvious, painfully so.

Like all of us, they have a natural bias and assume because she is a woman in a DV situation, she is innocent and the man guilty.

So when a woman is found guilty, then to fit their bias they make sense of it as there must have been a miscarriage of justice. Psychologically they then need create some injustice to fit their bias. In this case media influence.

If they did watch the trial, then we are dealing with more than a normal bias towards females innocence in DV situations and deeper psychological issues. Typically this is an abuse dynamic where here in situations of abuse, they have to see females as the victim and males as the perpetrator. This means they are psychologically incapable of seeing the lies and manipulation that a small proportion of women are capable of. Of course they are completely unaware of this, as this has been helpful at some point in their life. Essential to their survival even.

For the sake of the authors emotional and mental health, I hope they didn’t watch the trial. If they did there is help out there.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 month ago

Through the Wapo article, Amber Heard attempted to enhance her career through rumour and gossip. In contrast, the social media commentators based their comments on evidence presented in court. And even if the jurors had heard commentary on social media, that does not mean that it changed their minds. Kristine Murkett’s real gripe is that the likes of her were not allowed to dictate how the court case was reported. The plebs were allowed to watch and listen and make up their own minds.

0 0
0 0
1 month ago

Absolutely agree! When I was a California leftist, I saw many of my fellow Americans as rubes, ignoramuses, nazis, etc. Confessing publicly has become my penance and a warning to others suffering from the same delusional self-important outrageously narcissistic mentality. Often we can grow out of it and it is worth every confession made to be able to say most people are thoroughly decent and well. meaning and not so different from me. But if you think they are, you are the one that has the deeper problem. There are psychological structures that people act out that do create harm, and its important to be able to recognize these. This could be how this case could actually benefit society, education people and suggesting ways to help, but alas, our media environment has been mostly captured by people living in self created smugness.

Penny Mcwilliams
Penny Mcwilliams
1 month ago

All too tempting to go ‘tsk,tsk, something must be done…..’ in relation to many aspects of social media use and misuse, but very much more difficult to decide what. Freedom of expression is important as a right, but does not differentiate between lofty political ideals, spiteful claptrap and fraudulent misrepresentation for egregious ends . Pointing out the problem does not suggest the solution

neil pryke
neil pryke
1 month ago

Never underestimate lawyers’ talent for extracting as much as they can. We in Britain rarely have juries in civil actions, and some types of cases permit their use, but the idea of a jury in a case such as this is repugnant to some laypeople.